First thing in the morning on Sunday, I discovered that my college mentor, Bob Manning, who had been a second father to me while I was at college and beyond, went on up to that picnic much too soon. I could never get away from calling him Dr Manning even when I lived with his family, so he found a way around that by having me call him Uncle Willard – a name he made up on the spot.
He understood me so very well and knew how much I loved to make things up, so he would often write me stories about outlandish characters and I would respond in kind. We kept up this ever-changing fictional cast of characters in fits and starts for years ever since graduation. For the last few years, he liked to start his letters to me with: “Dear Country and Western Legend” which made me smile every single time.
I am glad for all of the little things that will remind me of him like baseball cards, star maps, spaghetti, the strap button he put on my guitar, the Grinch (he had a whole Grinch costume), and wood shavings. If you love some one, call them or write them, right now. I wish I could hear his voice and hug him just one more time.
I've just written a song for Uncle Willard, so those are some fresh lyrics behind the photo of his grandfather who entered the coal mines around Pittsburgh at a tender age, but got out and became the mayor of Hayes, Pennsylvania. Bob Manning -- Physicist, Astronomer, Woodworker, Humorist, Baseball card collector, mentor, and friend -- you live on in the hearts and minds of your students.